The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds have been my travel companion for the past two months now. There’s plenty to like – the sound, the battery life, improved active noise cancelation (ANC) and a more compact design. While comfort and fit remain subjective, Sony has introduced some significant changes, but not all of them translate to a better experience.
I had one prominent issue with the Sony XM4 earbuds – the size. That’s because it felt too big to fit in my pockets alongside the phone. Sony has worked on it and reduced WF-1000XM5 dimensions, so it’s noticeably smaller and much more portable, which I love.
The difference is more noticeable when you open the case because the earbuds have been shrunk too. As per the company, the earbuds are 25% smaller than the predecessor, and 20% lighter. If you have used the XM4s, you’d be delighted to put in the XM5s in your ears because they no longer feel bulky.
It’s a significant improvement in design but not in material used. The matte and glossy finish looks classy but the glossy finish on the earbuds’ sides causes issues. In my time with the XM5s, there have been zero (okay, almost zero) instances where I was able to take out the earbuds from the case in one try until I figured out the correct way of plucking them out.
You need to push and pull with a thumb and finger instead of pull with two fingers to get them out of the case. The glossy material provides no grip, so if you have sweaty or greasy fingers, you are going to struggle with them unless you use the thumb method. Ideally, taking out the earbuds and putting them in your ears should be a natural, seamless experience, but it isn’t on the Sony WF-1000XM5.
The earbuds come with proprietary foam tips. You get four of them in the box, including extra small, small, medium and large. If you put them in and realize that the ANC isn’t effective, that’s because these tips don’t work like silicone tips. You need to insert and twist, so they expand to seal the ears and perform as intended with ANC on. You can always swap them for silicone eartips if the new foam material doesn’t feel comfortable to you. Like before, the XM5 earbuds are rated IPX4 for sweat resistance.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 comes equipped with all-new 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X, which is larger than the 6.4mm found on the XM4s. According to Sony, this helps reduce mechanical noise, which is hard to notice. The earbuds support SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs. For Android phones, LDAC offers better sound but isn’t enabled by default on all the devices, so be mindful of turning it on.
The Sony XM5 earbuds bring in more clarity and dynamics. I enjoyed listening to songs that have acoustic guitar or piano playback with vocals being clear. The earbuds sound more open than before. While the XM4 had more thumping bass response, these sound more controlled, detailed and overall better in lower frequencies. The treble is more refined too. All of this is with ANC on, but turn the noise cancelation off, and you’ll get a more natural sound.
The WF-1000XM5 earbuds feature six microphones, a bone conduction sensor and a noise reduction engine with AI machine learning to offer a better calling experience than before. I was thoroughly impressed with the call quality and wind reduction tech. These are some of the best earbuds for calls. You can also use head gestures (can be toggled in the Headphones app) to accept or reject calls. But they don’t work 100% of the time.
The new Sony earbuds feature a new integrated processor V2 and HD Noise Canceling processor QN2e that work together to bring top-notch ANC performance. I’ve been on a few flights, and these have been my go-to earbuds for travel because these the ANC doesn’t give a vacuum-like effect that could make your ears uncomfortable. It’s right up there or even a notch better than AirPods Pro 2’s ANC but I prefer Apple’s transparency mode.
In terms of features, you get dynamic head tracking, which is cool to have but I prefer having it off. The app offers a quick optimization process to fine-tune the head tracking, which works with Netfix and YouTube to offer a more immersive experience. The Sony XM5 earbuds support multipoint connectivity so you can connect to two devices simultaneously. It works flawlessly.
Other Sony-exclusive features like Speak-to-Chat and Adaptive Sound Control are present too. The latter controls the amount of ambient sound to push in your ears depending on where you are and what you’re doing. For instance, you can have ANC off when you’re moving. Notably, it requires your location data to work.
One of the worst parts of non-stem earbuds design is that you are limited by controls because there’s only so many things you can do with a few taps. But on the XM5s, you can customize them for play/pause, ANC modes and volume – all at the same time, like the Sony WF-C700N earbuds. For reference, the XM4s didn’t let you operate all three together, and you could only choose two out of these three functionalities.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 can last up to eight hours on a single charge with ANC on, while the charging case adds another 24 hours of playback time. You get wireless charging support and fast charging that can give you an hour worth of battery life with a three-minute charge. I didn’t find myself out of charge when needed. The battery life is better than the AirPods Pro 2 (six hours).
Sony WF-1000XM5 Earbuds Review: Verdict
The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds feature a new design that’s smaller, lighter and more comfortable than before. There’s a minor inconvenience that you can make peace with because you get rich, clear and immersive sound and call quality. The ANC performance is top-class too.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 remain the earbuds to beat in terms of sound, features and ANC. At $280 / 24,990 INR, these are an easy recommendation for Android users. These perform well with the iPhone too but AirPods Pro 2 offer a more seamless experience.